Wild Mercury Sound
There are times when I receive a reissue of a record that I've never heard of, and begin to wonder whether some massive and elaborate hoax is being perpetrated. I had that feeling about 45 minutes ago, when I put on "Iron Curtain Innocence" by Bobb Trimble for the first time.
Trimble, it seems, is a psychedelic singer-songwriter from Worcester, Massachusetts. In the early '80s, he released this album and another one, "Harvest Of Dreams", which is also being reissued by Secretly Canadian and which I intend to play in a few minutes. The sleeve of "Iron Curtain Innocence" features Trimble sat on a stool in front of the sort of mottled background beloved of provincial portrait photographers. He sits amiably behind a microphone, an electric guitar lying across his lap. In his right hand, though, he’s hoisting a machine gun. "Dear John, Paul, George And Ringo," read the sleevenotes, "if I’m a good boy and work real hard, may I please be the 5th Beatle someday?"
It’s hard to tell whether it’s deranged or knowing, but the whole package is entirely compelling, not least because Trimble’s music is so good. "Glass Menagerie Fantasies" and "Night At The Asylum" are two of the most pungent songs I’ve heard in an age, glassy and dappled psychedelic homebrew fantasias in which you can spot trace elements of Pink Floyd, maybe a folkish backwoods Bowie, maybe even a lo-fi Yes.
The acknowledgements on the sleeve give thanks, perhaps inevitably, to Thurston Moore, but the name of LA Animal Collective protégé Ariel Pink there is perhaps more revealing. Like Trimble, Pink’s records sound like the work of quite a strange man trying to reconstruct fairly straightforward ‘70s and ‘80s rock, only refracted through a substantively bent aesthetic. It’s like an eerie broadcast on a fractionally detuned FM radio, and I must admit I’m hooked.
The thorough and fascinating sleevenotes claim only 300 copies of "Iron Curtain Innocence" were originally pressed, though there was a compilation CD that came out in the mid-‘90s.
"Harvest Of Dreams" looks, intriguingly, even weirder. It seems to feature one track where Trimble is backed by The Kidds, a local gang of 12-year-olds. On the front cover this time, he’s posing with a one-horned sheeplike thing that we’re encouraged to believe is a unicorn. Jandek and Daniel Johnston are mentioned in the sleevenotes, but while Trimble certainly radiates a certain otherness, there’s a lo-fi lavishness to this odd and lovely music ("Harvest" has just started up on the stereo now and it sounds great, too, infinitesimally more conventional perhaps); it reaches out to listeners, however awkwardly, rather than chooses to assert its fundamental dysfunctions.
Trimble, we learn, would play gigs dressed in a top hat, bunny ears and bunny tail. You’d be stretched to make up a character so rich and strange. And if you had, I wouldn’t care. Authentic or hoax, Bobb Trimble is a real find.